Thumbs up to Fresno-raised Broadway star Audra McDonald for being presented with the National Medal of Arts at the White House by President Barack Obama. “An unforgettable performer, she has won six Tony awards,” McDonald’s citation states. “In musicals, concerts, operas, and the recording studio, her rich, soulful voice continues to take her audiences to new heights.” The citation further praises the Roosevelt High School graduate for “lighting up Broadway as one of its brightest stars.”
The National Council on the Arts reviews nominations made by the public and makes recommendations to the president, who has the final say. The council’s members include San Joaquin Valley author and farmer David “Mas” Masumoto.
Isn’t it about time Fresno showed some big love for Audra with a public commitment? A mural in the Cultural Arts District, a statue at the Convention Center or a theater named in her honor all seem like good places to start. She is one of a kind.
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Thumbs up to Community Food Bank for raising enough dough at last weekend’s third annual Feeding Families Fund Drive to provide 1.6 million meals. Dinner is served! Community Food Bank serves more than 280,000 people monthly in Fresno, Madera, Kings, Kern and Tulare counties. Gar Tootelian Inc. of Reedley deserves special recognition for donating 50 cents for every dollar given to the food bank from Sept. 1-16. The drive brought in $231,000. KMJ Radio, Fresno Madera Farm Credit and CoBank teamed up to collect contributions Sept. 16 at The Market on Herndon and West avenues. It’s never too late to feed hungry folks; send checks to Community Food Bank, 3403 E. Central Ave., Fresno, CA 93725, or go online at communityfoodbank.net.
Thumbs up to Paul Dictos, Fresno County auditor recorder, for offering to pay for swimming lessons for a family with children under age 6. He was so moved by the story of the Fresno family whose two preschool children drowned recently that he posted the offer on Facebook.
A family took him up on the offer within one day, and he said they plan to take their lessons this winter at an indoor pool. With his adored grandchildren in mind, he feels strongly about young children learning to swim. He challenges the school districts in the Valley to make swimming lessons a part of their curriculum.
Dictos is one of many people deeply saddened by the drownings of Elizabeth Thao, 2 1/2 years old, and her brother, Jayce Thao, 3, in a neighbor’s swimming pool. The GoFundMe account set up by the parents of the children’s father, Lee Thao, to cover funeral expenses quickly surpassed its $10,000 goal. On Friday, it was at $11,295, with hundreds of people donating.
Thumbs up to Andrea Shabaglian, winner of the first She Makes a Difference award given by the Central California Women’s Conference. Shabaglian, founder of Made for Them – a clothing line that raises awareness about human trafficking and helps rehabilitate victims – said that part of the problem is that people tend to view trafficking as something that happens in other countries, not here.
“It’s very real here,” she told The Bee’s Mackenzie Mays. “You’re going to see it in massage parlors and as people selling flowers on the street. And, of course, many prostitutes in reality are victims.
“We all have preconceived ideas about what a victim would look like, but it could be a well-educated college student who struggles with self-confidence. Any race, religion or creed, it will knock on the door of.”
Thumbs up to Valley Public Radio station KVPR (FM 89.3), which had its ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new building Wednesday at 2589 Alluvial Ave. in Clovis. The project started with a groundbreaking in May 2015, was completed on time and under budget. KVPR raised $1.6 million through donations from private and national donors for the building. Mariam Stepanian is the Valley Public Radio president and general manager.